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The endangered Albatross is a victim of plastic pollution
The plight of the endangered Albatross species
The magnificent seabird known as the albatross is in serious danger and as many as 19 of the 21 species known are threatened with extinction. Today I watched what I can only describe as the saddest video I have ever seen.
Albatross chicks are dying because their parents feed them with plastic items that they have mistaken for food such as squid and other marine creatures. The baby birds cannot digest the plastic and they die and their parents can do nothing. The poor birds don't even know what is killing them.
Buy the Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Rime of the Ancient Mariner
The albatross was immortalised in the words of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in which the seaman is punished for killing one of these birds by having it hung around his neck.Today,whilst the birds are dying from many human causes no one is being punished for their deaths.
Albatrosses have so much against their chances of survival. For a start, they take over five years before they are sexually mature. Many types then mate for life after an elaborate courtship dance, and under ideal conditions the birds would have a long life and a successful marriage. Sadly this is no longer the case for many of them.
Besides the increasing threat of marine plastic pollution that is killing chicks, albatrosses are dying because they get caught on fishing lines and drown. They are also having problems finding enough food in overfished seas.
On the islands where the birds breed another danger is caused by introduced species such as cats and rats, against which they have no natural defences. Albatrosses evolved to breed on land where there were no predators.
In the past albatrosses have been hunted both as food and for their feathers.
David de Rothschild and the Plastiki
In 2010, adventurer, author and environmentalist David de Rothschild went on an expedition across the Pacific Ocean on a catamaran built entirely from recycled plastic water bottles.
This strange craft was known as the Plastiki, and one of David's aims was to raise global awareness about the danger of marine pollution and the threat to seabirds, turtles and other forms of life that mistake plastic for food items. He sailed from San Francisco in America all the way to Sydney in Australia.
The Plastiki travelled past the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a vast mass of floating rubbish said to be as big as the State of Texas. Most of it is floating plastic.
Plastic trash that gets thrown away can end up carried by the ocean currents to add to the mass of garbage or it can end up killing a turtle that thought a plastic bag was a jellyfish or a baby albatross whose parents fed a plastic item to it.
I find it hard to think of anything that would be so tragic and sad as the extinction of these beautiful birds brought about by our throwaway consumer culture's plastic rubbish.
World biggest garbage dump - plastic in the Ocean
© 2010 Steve Andrews